Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips #95 of the San Diego Chargers defends against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
On paper, the first four weeks of the Denver Broncos 2011 schedule didn’t look overly imposing. On the football field, it has proven to be one of the NFL’s toughest.
The Broncos’ first four opponents — the Oakland Raiders (2-2), Cincinnati Bengals (2-2), Tennessee Titans (3-1), and Green Bay Packers (4-0) — boast a combined 11-5 (.688) record this season. Those four teams have an 8-4 (.667) record outside of their games against the Broncos.
Only the Dallas Cowboys, with opponents having a 12-4 record, have had a tougher schedule than Denver.
Meanwhile, the AFC West-leading San Diego Chargers (3-1) have benefited from perhaps the NFL’s softest schedule. They’ve played the Minnesota Vikings (0-4), New England Patriots (3-1), Kansas City Chiefs (1-3), and Miami Dolphins (0-4), who have limped into a combined 4-12 (.250) record. Chargers opponents have a 3-9 (.250) record outside of games against San Diego.
The Broncos have played half of the league’s remaining undefeated teams; the Chargers have played half of the league’s winless ones. One has to wonder what each team’s record would be if their schedules were flip-flopped.
What-if’s aside, at least this gives us a bit of perspective, and acknowledgement that the Broncos have every reason to believe they can beat the Chargers at home this week.